A 15 year old girl is raped by a married man from her fundamentalist church. When the pastor finds out, he forces the teen to publicly repent in front of the congregation. Her rapist, however, is never brought to trial. Chuck Phelps is the pastor who covered up the rape of a 15 year old girl in his congregation. He also banished the pregnant teenager to live thousands of miles away where she gave up her baby for adoption. The rapist was never brought to trial (Phelps claims he reported the incident to police and CPS but that neither agency followed up--he also says the teen's mother is the one who decided to send the girl away).
Pastor Chuck Phelps, however, kept his job on the board of trustees at Bob Jones University.
Last year, a brave BJU senior named Christopher Peterman organized a protest calling for Phelps' resignation.
Just days before the protest, Phelps resigned. A statement on the university website said Phelps did not want to "distract from the university's mission."
But then why was Christopher Peterman expelled from Bob Jones University? The school claims his expulsion had nothing to do with the protest but with an accumulation of "demerits" Peterman received in his senior year.
In the first semester of his senior year, Peterman accumulated 70 demerits. How was it possible that in his very last semester at BJU, he accumulated 80 more?
Well, you could say he was a marked man.
During his last semester, Peterman was called into meetings with the Dean of Men. He was told that he needed "spiritual help" because he was not a "good Christian." He had "brought shame to BJU" and "gone against authority" (see video below starting at 3:36).
To aid his spiritual growth, a residential advisor was moved into Peterman's room. Peterman was followed on campus and off campus. All his actions were monitored and reported.
Peterman was given 50 demerits for watching the TV show Glee. He was given 25 demerits for sending a Facebook message during class and another 25 demerits for posting lyrics to a song.
When he reached 150 demerits, he was called into a meeting and informed of his expulsion. He appealed one of the demerits, noting that posting lyrics to a song was not a violation of any school rules. While waiting for the final word on his expulsion, Peterman reached out for help and contacted the media.
Although BJU revoked one of the demerits, they still expelled him because by contacting the media they said he was engaging in "intimidating" actions against BJU.
So, which is it? Was Peterman expelled because he racked up too many demerits or because he "brought shame" on BJU by calling for Chuck Phelps' resignation?
Which action brings true shame to a Christian university? A student who watches Glee or a board member who covers up the rape of a child?
And yes, by not FOLLOWING UP on the rape of a minor, you are complicit. The way BJU is handling this reminds me of the way people defended Joe Paterno: well, he reported the rape! It's not his fault the police didn't follow up! Where's the grace???? Haven't we all covered up the rape of a child???
I'm also reminded of the way people have defended Hugo Schwyzer. Yes, let's publish Hugo Schwyzer's writing on a major Christian website (and not divulge his past because that's how awesome grace is!!!). I mean, haven't we ALL slept with our students? Come on, Elizabeth, stop being so judgmental!
Here's the thing: extending grace does NOT mean zero accountability--especially if, while in a position of authority, you recklessly neglect the souls under your care.
Yes, I believe in grace and second chances. But grace is not grace when it comes at the expense of a victim's justice. And when a brave soul dares speak truth to power, he ought not be expelled just days before graduating.
Somebody somewhere needs to explain why Pastor Chuck Phelps was considered worthy of the Board of Trustees but Christopher Peterman was expelled for...sending a Facebook message during class.
Here are Peterman's own words: